Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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Covenant Protestant Reformed Church

83 Clarence Street, Ballymena BT43 5DR
Rev. Angus Stewart
Lord’s Day, 1 April, 2012

"Those that be planted in the house of the Lord
shall flourish in the courts of our God" (Ps. 92:13)

Morning Service - 11:00 AM

Zechariah’s Night Visions (9)
The Ephah That Goes Forth   [download]  [youtube]
Scripture Reading: Zechariah 5
Text: Zechariah 5:5-11

I. The Vision
II. The Interpretation
Psalms: 116:1-8; 126:1-6; 94:1-8; 34:11-18

Evening Service - 6:00 PM

The Second Key: Church Discipline   [download[youtube]
Scripture Reading: Matthew 18:1-22
Text: Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 31

I. A Difficult Key
II. A Necessary Key
Psalms: 122:1-9; 127:1-5; 75:3-10; 101:3-8

For CDs of the sermons and DVDs of the worship services, contact Stephen Murray.
If you desire a pastoral visit, please contact Rev. Stewart

CPRC website:
CPRC YouTube:
PRC Facebook:

Quote to Consider:

George M. Ophoff on Zechariah 5:5-11: "In [the church institute] is found the carnal seed as always. For all is not Israel that is of Israel. And the carnal seed is hardened as always. And this hardening process is the curse of God in operation. He curses them. He gives them over always to do things which are not convenient; [being] filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness, full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity, whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful. And so, when the cup of iniquity is again filled up, the curse of God will strike the house of God and the sinners in it will be destroyed, then at the final appearing of Christ" (Standard Bearer, vol. 32, p. 347).

Announcements (subject to God’s will)

We welcome Carolyn and Carleen Dykstra from Faith PRC to our worship services today. Everyone is invited to stay for tea after the evening worship service.

A new Covenant Reformed News with articles on "Cremation" and "The Eternal God (3)" is available on the back table.

Prof. Engelsma’s new book, Federal Vision: Heresy at the Root, has arrived. These are available for £5 for book club members and £8 for others.

Our Tuesday morning Bible study meets at 11 AM on "Eschatology and Time." We will discuss the "cosmos."

Belgic Confession Class meets Wednesday at 7:45 PM to study Article 14 on the image of God.

The Reformed Witness Hour broadcast next Lord’s Day (Gospel 846MW at 8:30 AM) will be "Not Faithless but Believing" (John 20:24-29) by Rev. R. Kleyn.

Rev. McGeown will be preaching for us next Lord’s Day while Rev. Stewart preaches in Limerick.

The Council will hold its monthly meeting at 7 PM on Monday, 16 April.

Men’s Bible Study will be (DV) held on Saturday, 21 April, at the Kennedys. We will begin our discussion on the first chapter of Disciplines of a Godly Man. Question sheets will be on the back table.

Lectures: S. Wales, 12 April, Rev. Stewart, "God’s Sovereignty & Man’s Responsibility"
Ballymena, 20 April, Rev. Stewart, "God’s Sovereignty & Man’s Responsibility"

CPRC Website: Three Hungarian translations were added, including the Belgic Confession and the Canons of Dordt.

Offerings: General Fund: £674.05.

PRC News: Hope PRC called Revs. Eriks. Rev. R. Kleyn declined the call to Edgerton PRC.

The Necessity of Christian Discipline

One thing almost completely missing in the church today is biblical church discipline. It is an almost unheard of for anyone to be excommunicated from the church, except for gross sin (they are not always disciplined even for that). People who live unchristian lives are allowed to remain in the church as members. Unbelievers serve in church offices. Ministers are allowed to preach anything and everything, no matter how unbiblical it may be. Sin, unbelief, backsliding, disobedience are rarely even rebuked.

Especially this is true of many thing which are counted "little" sins, but are especially destructive when allowed to remain unrebuked and unchecked in the church. It would be an unusual thing for sins such as speaking evil of others and gossiping to be rebuked, or for sins such as envy, hatred, or strife to be named as sin, yet they are destructive both of the church and of the service of God (Prov. 26:17-28; Matt. 5:21-24). They are like the little foxes that spoil the vines (Song 2:15).

The result of this lack of discipline is that sin in all its ruinous power flourishes and grows in the church, so that eventually the church is ruined. As the Word reminds us when speaking of sin in the church of Corinth: "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump" (I Cor. 5:6). Indeed, even the lack of first love, though everything else was in place, brought on the church of Ephesus the threat of having its candlestick removed (Rev. 2:1-7).

Christian discipline reaches its conclusion in censure and excommunication. In spite of the fact that such action is not pleasant, it is of the utmost importance for the safety and well-being of the church, and so Scripture speaks of it often (Matt. 18:15-17; I Cor. 5:1-13; I Tim. 1:19-20; II Thess. 3:14-15; Rev. 2:2).

In Scripture this aspect of Christian discipline is described in terms of delivering a person to Satan (I Cor. 5:5; I Tim. 1:20), of excluding him or her from fellowship (Matt. 18:17; II Thess. 3:14), especially from the fellowship of the Lord’s Supper (I Cor. 5:11, 13). In some cases at least it involves an actual trial of those who have sinned (Rev. 2:2).

That Christian discipline involves such extreme measures is probably the chief reason it is seldom carried out. Nevertheless, it is important not only for the well-being of the church, but for the salvation of the sinner. I Corinthians 5:5 (cf. also I Thess. 3:14), having described discipline in the strongest possible terms, insists that its main purpose is "the destruction of the flesh" and the "salvation of the spirit" in the day of the Lord Jesus. One of our church’s confessions, therefore, refers to it as "the last remedy."

Discipline does not, however, just mean excommunication. It involves watchfulness and rebuke on the part of all the members. Matthew 18 teaches that the church as a whole is not even brought into the matter unless the sinner, when confronted with his sin, refuses to repent. We are convinced, then, that there would be little need for formal discipline and exclusion from the church if the members faithfully fulfilled these responsibilities. Would God it were so.


The Way of Christian Discipline

Because Christian discipline is such a serious thing, careful rules are laid down for it in the Word, especially in Matthew 18. These rules are of the greatest importance.

For one thing, as we have noticed, discipline ordinarily begins with private admonition. When someone has sinned against us or offended us we are required to go to them and point out their sin to them.

Several things need emphasis in that connection. First, it is the sinner himself who must be told, not everyone else. Telling everyone else the sins of others is itself the sin of tale bearing or gossiping and is a deadly evil in the church (Prov. 26:20-26). This is the reason Jesus says in Matthew 18:15, "tell him his sin between thee and him alone."

Secondly, it is the person sinned against who has the primary obligation to go to the one who has sinned (v. 15). All too often in our pride and anger we wait for the person who has sinned to come to us and the result is that we are not reconciled to one another.

Third, rebuking of sin must be done with humility and love. Thus Jesus emphasizes, too, that we are "brothers." Very significant is II Thessalonians 3:15, which tells us that even one who has been excommunicated must still be admonished "as a brother." Too often our failure to gain a brother is due to the way in which we point out his sins.

Only if the sinner will not receive admonition and repent is the matter brought to the attention of others, but then not in the way of tale-bearing. He must be approached in the presence of witnesses (Matt. 18:16—according to Num. 35:30), who also have the obligation, if they are convinced he has sinned, to admonish him (Matt. 18:17).

The matter is brought to the church, functioning through its ordained elders, only if the sinner continues unrepentant. Then, eventually, he is excommunicated, both for the sin he committed and for his refusal to repent. This excommunication, as the very word suggests, involves his being barred from the Lord’s table, and thus from membership and fellowship in the church.

Here too, however, Scripture has something to say. There must be admonitions, not just a single admonition. Love demands that every opportunity must be given for repentance. Also, as much as possible, the sinner must be spared, especially if he repents (II Cor. 2:5-8). Thus, Scripture says, love covers sin, not to hide it, so that it is not dealt with (cf. James 5:19-20), but in sparing the sinner unnecessary shame and reproach.

In a few cases, however, Scripture indicates that sin must be immediately and publicly rebuked. Thus did Paul deal with Peter (Gal. 2:11-14), probably because of Peter’s prominent position in the church. I Timothy 5:20 gives two cases where this may be necessary: (1) where the person has "sinned before all," i.e., sinned publicly; and (2) where the person is a leader in the church (Paul is speaking here especially of elders).

In these ways sins will be dealt with in the church and will not destroy it. So too, our Holy God is not mocked but glorified in the church, and sinners saved.

Rev. Ronald Hanko (Covenant Reformed News, vol. 7, issues 1 & 2)